Love yourself

One of the hardest experiences as a child is to realise there’s no love, help, or comfort coming, and that you must somehow get by without it.

We build resilient methods of getting by, but the stronger they are, the longer we will endure without relief.

As adults we have the opportunity to learn how to love, soothe, and comfort ourselves. We can learn to reignite the flames that were extinguished long ago. And then we can finally put down the massive burden of having to live life on empty.

Learning to love yourself heals wounds where survival strategies just numb the pain.

And loving yourself can be so much easier when you know it’s not just you, but also a loving God, inner being, universe, or whatever word helps you find it.

Loving yourself feels good. Loving yourself restores you. Loving yourself answers the questions you been turning over ad infinitum on your own.

Loving yourself lets God in.

And then there is no difference between loving yourself and being loved by God. The love is God’s, but it is up to you to allow it, accept it, let it in where it might upset decades of careful strategies and contingency plans.

There’s an obvious connection between loving ourselves and trusting God. We need to believe it’s safe to let our guard down; we need to trust that God will never hurt us; we need to trust that love is everything we are wanting before we can truly allow it in.

We need to know that our fears and doubts do not come from God. We need to trust that as we finally let love in, everything will be transformed.

In the Abraham-Hicks teachings loving ourselves is not emphasised, because for most of us there’s just too much resistance. Instead we’re advised to just feel better, less bad, in every possible way, and trust that everything is working out.

But there will come a time when you can feel good not just about the things in your life but about your own self too. So don’t hurry or rush. There’s no time limit. It’s counter-intuitive, but by feeling good about anything you’re already letting more love in than if you stare grimly at the subject of “self love” and try to conquer it right now.

Trains of thought

A train of thought might sound like something you just happened to catch a ride on, but the phrase “Train of thought” originated in the 1650s, before trains (as in locomotives) were invented.

This “train” means a series or progression, from “drawing out”, or “pulling” or extending.

So when we follow a train of thought we might be actively extending it, drawing it out, or maybe just following the procession.

Whatever the metaphor, every train has a starting point and we can tell from the beginning where it’s headed.

A thought that doesn’t feel good won’t lead to anything better. Just like a real train it’s up to you if you jump on board.

If you want to feel good all day then stop focusing on thoughts that don’t feel good. Jump off before it picks up speed and find one heading in the opposite direction!

Happiness Day 18

I had a whole post prepared on bad memories come good, explaining how we can change the past by how we feel right now.

But it didn’t feel good, and I couldn’t justify continuing it, when I’d much rather write something that does feel good to me.

Writing these posts has become an opportunity to focus on how good I’m feeling and how much I’m appreciating this journey.

Focusing on happiness and feeling better is lifting up every corner of my life, and exceptions are becoming untenable.

I keep noticing subjects where I haven’t yet gone to work, and immediately looking for ways to soften and soothe those thoughts, steering gently toward less negative and then more positive feelings.

I may have further to go, but I’m enjoying the path. Each day I’m busy, and I’m learning to enjoy the busyness and energy that comes with it.

I have this feeling of anticipation, that soon there are going to be more things I enjoy each day than things I don’t enjoy.

Soon good feelings are going to outnumber negative ones. Soon allowing is going to outweigh resistance.

And then it will be just a clean-up operation, an easy victory over any remaining pockets of resistance.

I’m optimistic. I might even be more than optimistic, because I have a sense of knowing of certitude that the happiness I seek is on its way.

And this knowing is itself a source of happiness, joy at the further unfolding of my path.

Happiness Day 17

When s*** hits the fan.

I focus on feeling good. I make headway, my mood rises, I appreciate subtle and obvious changes around me.

And then something unwanted shows up. A bad mood hits me from “out of nowhere”, or an issue arises that sparks bad feelings and inner turmoil.

But over time I adapt and adjust and the conflict is resolved and…looking back, I’m changed by it.

I’m growing by facing these unwanted things and allowing the wanted instead.

And though at first it was dire and stomach-churning and dramatic and full of fear, over time and with practice the process has gotten easier.

Abraham describes it as “learning to handle contrast better”.

Not only can we learn to allow better-feeling thoughts on contrast-rich subjects, but we can also allow greater ease and comfort in the process.

We can even get to the point of appreciating contrast because it inspires the expansion and growth that is the whole point of our life here.

Let it be easy!

At first I wanted to make rapid, powerful changes to my mood and my life.

But people who have done this advise against it. Don’t be in a hurry, take it easy.

The whole point of life is to enjoy the journey. And while we might tell ourselves we are ready to go straight from utterly depressed to profoundly joyful in an instant, there’s actually a desperation and a denial of enjoyment in that pledge.

The harder you push, the more it hurts, not least because you’re used to feeling bad and so your efforts to “try harder” tend to be instinctively geared to more pain and struggle.

“Feel good” really is too easy an answer for most of us. It takes time to accept that there’s no benefit to pushing and no merit to hurting along the way.

So let it be easy! Don’t worry! The path of greatest ease is the path of least resistance and of most allowing.

There’s no rush. Don’t make it an uphill climb; the point after all is to learn how to feel better, and you can’t struggle to make that happen, earn it through suffering, or make it come faster by gritting your teeth in bitterness.

Happiness Day 16

Happiness flow chart (sorta).

I had the idea just now to make a flow chart about feeling good that covers all the general possibilities.

How do I feel right now?

Good! -> appreciate it!

Not good.

Can I find a better feeling?

Yes! -> appreciate it!

No.

Can I accept/make peace with where I am right now?

Yes. -> appreciate it.

No.

Can I soothe myself?

Yes. -> keep soothing.

No. -> go have a nap, find a simple distraction, change the subject, get your mind off what is bothering you.

A more positive approach?

But this flow chart feels like it could be more positive. I mean, it’s good to demonstrate what to do when you feel bad, but it doesn’t really develop a good feeling.

For all intents and purposes, good feeling is the grace, spirit, divine presence, whatever you want to call it, that we seek to cultivate by prayer or meditation.

When people visualise a pure white light surrounding and infusing them, the whole point is that this visualisation feels good.

If it doesn’t feel good, it isn’t working for you.

I can visualise all sorts of things and have no effect whatsoever.

That’s where I went wrong in the past: not by visualising per se but by thinking the point of all the different spiritual practices was something other than feeling good.

Meditation should feel good. Prayer should feel good. Sometimes it’s difficult, sure. But it mostly should feel good.

If you’re accustomed to feeling bad and distrusting ordinary good feelings, you might make the mistake of thinking spiritual practices should not feel good.

You might overemphasise stories of struggle and effort and how “different” spiritual practice is from everything else in life.

But the bottom line is that it should feel good. And for my purposes I should treat good feeling as a direct sign of the spiritual substance I’m seeking to connect with.

The presence of God feels good. Divine love feels good. Our hearts’ desire is to feel good.

Feeling good is the path and the destination. Accept it, embrace it, and be changed by it until everything feels good for you.

Happiness Challenge Day 2

It’s day two of my Happiness Challenge and I wanted to share some insights even at this early stage.

Half-full or half-empty?

First off, making a commitment to feel good all the time has completely changed how I perceive my emotional state.

Our emotional state fluctuates throughout the day with natural peaks and troughs. Previously I fixated on those troughs, the low points, and they defined my emotional landscape.  

But my commitment to feeling good all the time has shifted my focus to the peaks, and in so doing I’ve noticed that the troughs are actually few and far between and easily avoided.

So the first bit of good news is that I feel okay most of the time, so long as I’m not fixated on the troughs.

My actual mood probably hasn’t changed that much, I just started asking how close to full the glass is, rather than asking how empty.

Feeling just okay is not good enough if you’re spending lots of time wallowing in your problems.

But if you are instead aspiring to the heights of happiness, just okay is an excellent launching pad or starting point.

The Happiness Challenge

A couple of years ago I wrote a super-intense, psychologically-driven diet book.

The heart of the diet was making a commitment to only eat when you are genuinely hungry, and only eat enough to sate that need for physical nourishment.

The rest of the book was about understanding why this approach works, and finding clarity around our true motivations for eating.

If you commit to the rule of only eating for nourishment, then it immediately becomes clear how often we are eating for other reasons, typically as an escape from unpleasant emotions. Excessive body weight is then best understood as just a by-product or symptom of eating for these other reasons.

Isn’t happiness the same?

Today it hit me that my desire to feel good is very very similar to my approach to diet.

The underlying premise is that we are meant to feel good, and that we would naturally feel good if we weren’t doing something to interfere with this natural state.

Just like we would naturally arrive at a healthy body weight if we weren’t interfering with our appetite, using food and the experience of eating as an escape from feeling bad.

The most confronting moment in my diet journey was contemplating a future of never again using food as an escape. It was an incredibly daunting thought, but I gradually saw that it was the next logical step for me. And so I resigned myself to fundamentally changing how I related to food.

The same sense of a daunting, yet logical next step is now arising in the context of happiness. Because I know from experience that I can feel good simply by focusing on better-feeling thoughts like contentment and appreciation.

And I know in theory that my circumstances cannot prohibit me from finding better-feeling thoughts.

So the situation is simple: I can choose, if I will, to focus on better-feeling thoughts all of the time.

Making a commitment

It’s a bit like committing to get up early every morning and do some exercise.

The next logical step is that I commit myself to make better-feeling thoughts my rule, and view worse-feeling thoughts as exceptional, accidental setbacks.

Without this commitment I’m liable to continue haphazardly feeling good when I remember to, and making little overall change to my consistent emotional state.

At first it’s going to take some effort, because I’m accustomed to just letting my mind wander all over the place.

But to be honest I prefer an “all or nothing” approach over an incremental one.

If this process continues to mirror my diet journey I’ll likely break my commitment a number of times over the next few days and maybe weeks.

Yet each time I break it, I’ll reinforce my intention to stay on track.

Discovering what a happy life looks like

Part of what kept me so intensely motivated during my diet journey was that I had never really been in the “normal” weight range as an adult. I’d always been 10-20 kgs overweight.

So I was inspired by my desire and curiosity to experience life differently, to see what it was like to finally be in the normal BMI range.

Once I got there and maintained it for a year or so the inspiration ran out, and other demands like a new baby changed my eating habits.

The old resolve is hard to recapture, because I already accomplished that body weight goal. I’m not curious about it anymore.

But I am profoundly curious and inspired to see what life will look like when I am consistently happy and feeling good.

Happiness is harder to measure than body weight, but my experience has shown me that small improvements make a big difference.

I also have faith that how we feel is intrinsic to the creation of our reality and the shaping of our individual experience of life.

When you feel really good, bad or irritating or disappointing things cannot insert themselves into your reality anymore.

Feeling good….feels good!

Finally, it’s actually very sensible to learn how to feel good all the time, because feeling good feels good after all!

And on reflection it’s actually deeply silly that we spend so much time either fixating on things that feel bad, or simply letting our attention drift and gravitate into whatever old patterns we have already formed.

It feels bad to feel bad, so why do it if you don’t have to?

How does “positive thinking” actually work?

It’s not actually about thoughts, it’s about feelings.

The whole point of any positive-thinking exercise or system is to feel better, and we can feel better by finding thoughts that are more positive, but we can also feel better just by finding a good feeling and practicing it.

We can all do it.  We can evoke the feeling of contentment just as easily as we can evoke the mental image of a pink elephant.

The problem is that we don’t rate these feelings as important or real or valid or true, unless they correspond to something in our circumstances.

It’s ironic, bordering on stupid, that a society awash with depressed and anxious individuals doesn’t see the value in learning to feel better regardless of our circumstances.

I was one of those people, chronically depressed and anxious, who nonetheless took some comfort in having a realistic view of the world, and not succumbing to supposedly false happiness and empty positivity.

But I was simply wrong. I underestimated…in fact I had absolutely no idea…how much better my life could feel if I felt better.

I refused to believe that what looked like real barriers or obstacles to happiness were purely a matter of perspective.

Even though I had studied philosophy and knew the finitude and limits of our knowledge of reality, I still persisted in clinging tenaciously to a “truth” based on how bad I felt.

And that’s okay. I don’t feel bad about that. In fact the decades of struggle and searching have only heightened my appreciation for the power I’ve finally realised – the power to feel good…as good as I want to feel, as good as I can imagine feeling, and to practice that until it becomes second nature.

How good can you feel? What is the most positive emotion you’ve ever felt? If you’ve felt it and remember it, you can bring it to mind, and if you practice bringing it to mind it will become more and more accessible, and your horizons will expand.

And the actual thinking aspect is there to help soften resistance to this power.

It’s to help people who can’t get their mind off everyday worries and concerns, or people who are obsessed with specific outcomes and circumstances they believe will bring them happiness, or people who fear and doubt that feeling good is more than pleasant daydreaming, or who stubbornly insist that life is meant to be full of suffering and heartache and disappointment, etc.

In other words, it’s to help all of us.

But most of what we’re seriously and strenuously thinking is just nonsense. People look for thoughts that are consistent with the feelings we are used to feeling, and we observe reality in the way we are accustomed to observe it. We rely on inertia. We interpret things through the lens we are already wearing.

Yet we are called to happiness and abundance of life. We can’t deny it forever, and in the end we’ll die anyway and everything will be sorted out that way.

While we’re hear we can at least lessen our resistance and start to heed the call of love and joy and appreciation and delight and freedom, and all the feelings we could never deny in the moment of feeling them.

All it takes is practice, giving ourselves permission to feel good, and having faith that in feeling good we really are connecting at last with all that is good within us and in all existence.

To feel as good as possible

Focus on the word “contentment” and feel it. It might take a few seconds to really embrace the good feeling of contentment.

If you can feel contentment you can then go to a better feeling:

Appreciation

Love

Freedom

Joy

Contentment is easier and more stable, and good enough if you’re not used to feeling good.

Appreciation is also very good because we have less resistance and fewer preconceptions about it than love, joy, and freedom.

But whatever feels best to you.

Resistance

You might feel some resistance to feeling good. A bit like you’re reluctant to relax or let your guard down.

Keep focusing. The whole point is to feel the relief of letting go and allowing these good feelings.

You might also have resistance in the form of thoughts that dissuade you from the task.

But hopefully the exercise is general enough and simple enough that other thoughts don’t really have a foothold.

If they do, try to soothe the thoughts gently.

Eg. “I suck at this kind of thing” well it’s okay to suck at it. It’s just an experiment, right? I’m giving it a go, and maybe it’ll be interesting. It’d be nice to have this trick up my sleeve to feel content whenever I want to.

“This is pointless” Actually the point is to feel better and I’d like to do that more, and if I can feel better just by focusing on the feeling I want to feel then that would be worth practicing I think.

“This won’t change anything” It will give me the ability to find relief and feel better, and if nothing else were to change wouldn’t it be better to feel good rather than feel bad?

Do it all the time…eventually

My goal is to feel genuine appreciation all the time.

Feeling appreciation makes me a better person – the person I think I’m meant to be. I’m happier, more creative, much nicer to be with! People have commented on how much happier I am.

It makes my life better. I’ve already seen how feeling appreciation can transform my day from a monotony of worries and burdens to a light and easy adventure.

And the only thing I need to do is practice feeling appreciation.

From general to specific

With credit to the Abraham Hicks material, I’ve found that practicing a general feeling of appreciation eventually translates spontaneously into specific appreciation for things in life.

It’s a bit like suddenly coming into a whole heap of money and thinking “wow I’m rich!” And then after a while being inspired to spend your money in specific, good-feeling ways that enhance the feeling of well-being and prosperity.

So the more time I spend feeling appreciation, the more I will continue to notice wonderful things to appreciate in my life.

This is how feeling good really does change your life, because in consistently feeling good you are naturally drawn to entirely different aspects of your present experience and hence to a different future experience altogether.

Keeping up with alignment

In my previous post I wrote:

At the heart of the Abraham Hicks material is the observation that whatever we desire, we desire it because we think we will feel better when we have it. But it is not having things that makes us feel better, it is alignment with our own inner being, God’s presence within us.

I wanted to follow this idea in a slightly different direction.

We desire things in this world because we think having them will make us feel better.

But what actually makes us feel better is having thoughts that are aligned with our inner being.

So does our inner being think that having what we desire will make us feel better?

Not the right question?

I think the answer is that this is not quite the right question.

Abraham teaches that whenever we encounter something unwanted, we launch a desire. In that moment our inner being expands to become that newly launched desire.

For example, if I’m hungry but there’s nothing to eat in the fridge then my noticing of that unwanted condition launches a desire for food, based on my thought that I will feel better if that condition arises.

But in that moment my inner being already expands into that better feeling. My inner being already feels like it’s eating delicious food and feeling satisfaction and enjoyment.

I, however, still have a choice of whether to go with my inner being and share that feeling of enjoyment and satisfaction, or keep thinking about the condition of the empty fridge which leaves me feeling dissatisfied and disappointed.

That dissatisfaction and disappointment exists because in the moment I noticed the empty fridge my desire was launched and my inner being went with it, but I did not.

That’s the whole point!

You might be thinking “but the fridge really is empty…” and that may be true for now…or it may not. I might have missed something!

We are encouraged to be realistic and look at what is really there in front of us.

But something else that is really here in front of us is our ability to feel good right now without waiting for the condition to change.

Is it unrealistic to feel satisfaction and enjoyment when we have the power and the desire to do so?

Isn’t it a real ability to feel good without waiting for external conditions to change?

If imagining food can feel just as good as actually eating food (sometimes better!) then it’s an entirely realistic option.

This is how you create your reality

Quite apart from what is in the fridge, there is a world of difference between the me who feels disappointed that there’s nothing to eat, and the me who feels enjoyment and satisfaction by keeping up with my inner being as it expands into the desire.

My observation is that small children are happy because they haven’t yet learned to focus so tenaciously on unwanted things. I was reminded of this yesterday when I was discussing birthday cakes with my son. I baked his cake last year and tried to make it look like a Minecraft sword.

I was heartily disappointed with the outcome, but he loved it, and when I mentioned it yesterday his eyes lit up and, oblivious to my negativity, he praised it with enthusiasm.

He hadn’t learned to compare it to the professional designs online and criticise the wobbly edges or the dull colour of the icing. He went with his inner being on that one.

Jesus said “whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

I’ve looked for good interpretations or explanations of that line. The best explanation I’ve found is the one described above, thanks to the Abraham Hicks material.

We are meant to go with our inner being. We are meant to feel good. We are meant to create a better-feeling reality.

And in our focus on unwanted conditions we have no idea what is possible. Whether you look at it on the level of psychology and expectations or on the level of miracles and providence, what we think, believe, and subsequently feel is of greatest importance in the conditions of the world that follow.

So to answer the question…

In the spirit of expansion and ever-more-answers: no, our inner being does not think that feeling better will come from having what we desire.

Not that it would disagree, but that the question would not occur because our inner being always feels good, and it knows that we can feel good too the moment we join its good-feeling perspective.

I like to think of the inner being as a dear friend or loved one who is always feeling good, and when you’re with them you feel good too. So long as you stay with that beloved person you are happy.

But there’s a problem: this friend of yours is always racing ahead joyfully into every opportunity that comes along, whereas you tend to grow cautious and resistant at unfamiliar situations. You want to stop and weigh the pros and cons and give yourself time to think about it.

When you do that, you’ve forgotten that you are happiest when you are together with your friend, and really nothing else matters.

You would be happier to forget your worries and just stay with your friend wherever they go, rather than dithering and delaying and always lagging behind.

That’s the kind of relationship we have with our inner being. We have a desire for some new condition, and our inner being races ahead into appreciation of that condition. But we hold back, thinking we need the condition before we can feel appreciation and joy and all those good feelings.

So, no, our inner being doesn’t join us in thinking that the conditions we desire will make us feel better, because our inner being always feels good, it always immediately expands to embrace our desires, and it never shares our misguided and ill-feeling attention to what is unwanted or missing from our experience.

Therefore, we can find alignment with our inner being on this subject if we stop looking to our conditions to make us feel better. Our desires will keep arising, and our inner being will keep expanding; it’s up to us to keep up with it, staying aligned with that wellspring of love, joy, and appreciation.